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Bromberg, P.M. (1996). Hysteria, Dissociation, and Cure: Emmy von N Revisited. Psychoanal. Dial., 6(1):55-71.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 6(1):55-71

Hysteria, Dissociation, and Cure: Emmy von N Revisited

Philip M. Bromberg, Ph.D.

This paper reconsiders the case of Frau Emmy von N—Freud's first effort to treat hysteria—from the vantage point of hypnoid states of consciousness and the phenomenon of dissociation. It proposes that Freud, in ultimately repudiating Breuer's concept of autohypnosis and alterations in consciousness, led psychoanalysis for the next century towards a one-sided emphasis on repression at the expense of dissociation. It is suggested here that Freud's inability to “cure” Emmy was largely due to his treating her symptoms simply as pathological pieces of her past to be removed and to his failure to attend to their immediate relevance in the here-and-now context of their own relationship. To comprehend why, as Freud states, Emmy's cure “was not a lasting one” is to accept that patients such as Emmy are not cured of what was done to them in the past; rather, we are working to cure them of what they continue to do to themselves and to others in order to cope with what was done to them in the past.

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